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Explore School and Program Options

University or the trades? Diploma or degree? Workplace training or classroom learning?

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Once you've identified a career direction and the education and training you need to make it a reality, your next step is to explore schools and programs.

With over 2,000 post-secondary programs accredited and recognized in Alberta, you have many choices.

Which post-secondary schools should I attend?

When similar education or training programs are offered by different institutions, how do you know which program would be best for you?

The following tips can help you make sure that the certificate, diploma, or degree you earn will be one employers respect. They can also help you choose a post-secondary school that will provide the type of learning environment in which you learn best.

  1. The most important thing you need to know is why you want to take an education or training program. What is your goal? If you know where you want the training to take you, it is much easier to decide which program will get you there.
  2. Make sure you are aware of all the education and training programs that might fill your needs. Find out if there are less formal methods of acquiring the knowledge and skills you are looking for. For example, on-the-job training or distance education courses might suit your situation better than full-time classroom-based learning.
  1. Once you've identified programs that could get you started in the direction you want to go, you'll probably have a number of questions about those programs.
    • What are the application deadlines?
    • What are the entrance requirements?
    • Is your chosen program a “quota program” with limited enrolment? If so, what grades are generally required to gain admission?
    • Does the program start in September? Or are there other possible entry dates?
    • Does the program include a work experience component? If so, is it volunteer work or are students paid for their work? Who is responsible for arranging the work experience?
    • What percentage of graduates find related employment?
    • How much do tuition, books, and supplies cost?
    The best source of information about a particular program is the institution that offers the program. You can contact post-secondary institutions directly and request print materials, or look for the information you need on their websites.

    If you don't have easy access to the internet, check out the career counselling offices and libraries in your area. Collections of post-secondary institution calendars can be found in Alberta Supports Centres located throughout the province.
     
  2. Use print or internet resources to gather some basic information about your program options. Once you’ve done that, it’s a good idea to talk to people connected with each program. Good people to talk to include the following:
    • Program instructors
    • Representatives of applicable professional associations or licensing bodies
    • Employers who are likely to hire program graduates
    • Program graduates themselves
    Finding and contacting these people may take some determined networking, but it’s well worth the effort. For example, if employers tell you they prefer to hire graduates of a different program, that’s definitely something you want to know before you enroll.

  3. Your choice of institution may be influenced by any or all of the following considerations:
    • location (how close it is to your home)
    • size (whether you prefer the learning environment at a smaller or larger institution)
    • type of institution (for example, religious affiliation)
    • the institution’s academic reputation in your subject field
    • costs (for example, tuition, books, and accommodation)
    • the type of student services and facilities offered (for example, counselling services and housing)
    Most post-secondary institutions have open houses or information sessions. These are a great opportunity to look around the campus, experience the learning environment, ask about program content, and find out what student life is like.

In these videos, Joel and Kristina talk about how growing up in small towns has shaped their post-secondary decisions:

Attending College as the Key to Success (2:29)

Joel is an Indigenous student attending a public college. Learn more about his experience moving from a rural town to the city, becoming involved in student groups, and getting to know his professors.

Studying Agriculture at a Rural College (2:26)

Kristina is an agriculture student at a rural public college. She discusses her experience choosing a college and living in a student residence.

In this video, consider how Sharon goes about finding and talking to people as she researches her program options:

Achieving Dreams at a Private College (2:53)

Sharon is a student at a private college that offers approved degrees. Watch as she discusses her experience choosing a college and taking steps that will enable her to graduate debt free.

Consider programs outside Alberta

Now may be the time to broaden your horizons. You may be considering opportunities to study in another country. Or perhaps you want to explore another part of Canada as a student. Your course of study may only be offered in another province. Check out these directories of post-secondary schools and programs in other provinces:

  • The federal government provides this database of programs and schools across Canada.
  • School Finder is a searchable database of programs offered by Canadian colleges and universities.
  • PolytechnicsCanada is an alliance of 9 leading polytechnic institutes in Canada.
  • The Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC) provides information on educational policy as well as contact information for provincial and territorial education departments and ministries across Canada.

Transfer courses

Transfer programs give students the flexibility to begin their studies at one institution and later transfer to another institution to complete their program of studies and/or take a course not offered by their first institution. The benefits of a university transfer program may include smaller class sizes, lower tuition fees, less competitive admission requirements, and the opportunity to choose from a greater number of institutions.

Here are some important things to keep in mind if you are planning on beginning your studies at one post-secondary institution and transferring to another:

  1. Get advice, plus written confirmation from appropriate faculty/program staff, if possible, about program requirements, from both the sending and receiving institutions to make sure you will receive credit for your courses.
  2. Program admission is competitive and the number of students who can be admitted may be limited. Admission is not guaranteed after completing a transfer program.
  3. Go to Transfer Alberta to plan your transfer path.

To decide which courses to take at the sending institution:

  • Check the transfer program advice in the sending institution's calendar
  • Check the receiving institution's calendar to get the most current program advice.

If possible, check with the Program Advisor or similar individual from the sending and receiving institution to ensure/confirm that what is noted in the institution calendar is accurate and uptodate. If in doubt, check with the particular faculty head/dean’s office.

Choose the post-secondary program that’s right for you

It’s important to understand your education options. By comparing post-secondary institutions and the programs they offer, you can find the learning environment and program that is right for you.

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